About two years ago, Nick Sutton and a group of his friends were searching for a place to train and hone their mixed martial arts skills.
They didn’t find a gym that suited them, so they started one of their own.
Twin Ports Mixed Martial Arts opened in West Duluth in April 2008. Since then, the gym has grown rapidly, much like the sport’s popularity.
“It started small, with just four or five guys. I knew April was the worst time to start with school ending, but we ended up getting between 15-20 people in the gym over the summer,” said Sutton, 29, of Duluth. “After school started in the fall, it just exploded with 30-plus fighters.”
Superior native Jimmy Nelson, 22, was one of the founding members of the gym above the Pioneer Bank building on Central Avenue. He said the gym has seen consistent growth in the past year.
“I am glad to see this gym take off the way it has,” he said. “We have a great crew of fighters and trainers.”
Mixed martial arts combine traditional and new martial arts such as wrestling, judo, kickboxing, sambo and jiu-jitsu. Fighters work to hone each skill and combine them to beat their competitors.
While mixed martial arts is a male-dominated sport, Twin Ports Mixed Martial Arts does train a few women, too.
“I first got into watching it when my fiance moved in with me,” said Courtney Kile, 24, of Duluth. “He had watched it for a number of years. I had no interest in it at all. At first I just thought it was some crazy guys beating each other to a pulp in a cage. But then as [he] explained to me what actually happens and the different weight classes and rules and stuff, I actually got into it.”
Although there are other gyms in the area that teach wrestling, judo and kickboxing, Sutton said he is not aware of any other Twin Ports gym that combines all forms of mixed martial arts. In one class at Twin Ports Mixed Martial Arts, competitors can work on all aspects of becoming an all-around fighter, whether they compete outside the gym against other fighters or only use the skills in the gym as a way to work out.
Fighters of all levels can get together at Twin Ports Mixed Martial Arts. The gym holds classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from
6-9 p.m.; while the weekend class schedule varies.
“We’re not looking for pure fighters,” Sutton said. “We’re looking for people who want to expand their knowledge of [mixed martial arts] or come for health reasons and help them be a better person. We take them all. We don’t judge.”
By: Sarah Packingham , for the News Tribune